Winslet Expresses Regrets Over Allen, Weinstein Work + More News Out of London

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Hello and welcome back to our roundup of news from across the industry. From stage to screens big and small, we’ve got you covered. It’s everything you need to know and all you can’t afford to miss.

Sky calls for more British drama on a budget.
Broadcaster Sky used a BAFTA event last week to call for more contemporary British drama. Sky’s head of drama, Anne Mensah, said the company wanted to develop smaller-budget, “heartfelt” dramas that “tap into British values”. This approach is seen by many as the only way UK channels can see off stiff competition for actors, creative talent, and audiences from on-demand services like Netflix.

Speaking of Sky’s successes last year, Mensah said, “2017 was when we really began to solidify what we were doing with drama...most of our viewers know what we do with the big shows, so it is about developing new programming.” Although big-budget dramas such as the much anticipated “Game of Thrones” challenger “Britannia” and psychological drama “Fortitude” are what Sky is known for, they are now keen to develop smaller-scale dramas in the style of new show, “Save Me”, starring Lennie James and Suranne Jones.

Mensah was joined by drama bosses from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 on a panel that discussed how traditional broadcasters can respond to the increased output of subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Although Sky managed to assemble a stellar cast for “Britannia”, including Mackenzie Crook, Neil Morrissey, Zoe Wanamaker, and Kelly Reilly, broadcasters are having difficulty securing top talent in the face of competition from on-demand services. Netflix original drama “The Crown” is seen as the biggest draw for actors wanting to gain international exposure in recurring parts.

The BBC’s Piers Wenger said that broadcasters need to create the right “ecosystem” for up-and-coming talent to develop and that the industry had been “skewed to big budgets” which don’t work well for young writers. He also raised concerns about representation across British drama, claiming broadcasters failed in attracting BAME writers and directors. However, the panel agreed that the thirst for homemade drama is being met with international co-productions, as in the case of the upcoming series “White Dragon” for ITV and the James Norton led drama “McMafia” for the BBC.

Critics’ Circle Awards: McDonagh wins, Winslet regrets.
Whilst the evening belonged to Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, actor Kate Winslet used her acceptance speech for an Excellence Award to admit she regrets working with certain industry figures.

Picking up an award from the London Film Critics’ Circle, Winslet said, “there are directors, producers, and men of power who have for decades been awarded and applauded for their highly regarded work...As women around the world and from all walks of life marched last weekend, once again joining together to speak out against harassment, exploitation, and abuse, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to stand here this evening and keep to myself some bitter regrets that I have about poor decisions to work with individuals with whom I wish I had not.”

Winslet has had starring roles in films by controversial directors Woody Allen (“Wonder Wheel”) and Roman Polanski (“Carnage”) as well as appearing in films produced by Harvey Weinstein (“Iris”, “Finding Neverland”).

She added: “It has become clear to me that by not saying, something I might be adding to the anguish of many courageous men and women. Sexual abuse is a crime. While it rests with the rule of law to pass judgement, it lies to all of us to listen to the smallest of voices and to never stop listening.” “The Crown” and “Doctor Foster” star Victoria Hamilton also used her acceptance speech for her role in stage play “Albion” to commend the changes in the industry in response to the MeToo and Time’s Up movements. She said, “people are drafting legislation and guidelines that will actually change the experience for actresses auditioning and rehearsing, and that’s huge”.

“Three Billboards...” was the big winner of the ceremony, collecting best film, best actress for Frances McDormand and best screenwriter for Martin McDonagh. The best actor award went to Timothée Chalamet for “Call Me By Your Name”, whilst Sean Baker won best director for “The Florida Project”. Lesley Manville went away with best supporting actress for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” and Hugh Grant took best supporting actor for “Paddington 2”.

“Chimerica” is going from stage to screen.
Lucy Kirkwood’s critically-acclaimed and Olivier Award-winning play “Chimerica” is to be adapted into a series for Channel 4. The four hour-long episodes will take up the themes of the relationship between East and West and set them against the run-up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Channel 4 says that Kirkwood’s play “has been updated to reflect the giddying political changes of the last two years”.

Tackling “vital issues such as fake news, the undermining of political protest, the battle between present and future superpowers, the future of democracy itself”, the series is directed by William Oldroyd, making his TV debut after his independent film “Lady Macbeth” won five British Independent Film Awards and is in the running for two BAFTAs next week. Playwright Lucy Kirkwood said that the story, first staged at the Almeida theatre in 2013, has only grown more relevant: “It was thrilling for me to return to the story of two men, one American and one Chinese, trying to work out how to respond to the outrages of an increasingly outrageous world, and look through their eyes at our changing relationship with journalism, power, protest, and images themselves”.

Produced by Playground, the team behind “Wolf Hall”, “Howards End” and “Little Women”, the series will begin filming later this year.

Stage Production News
Touring company Paines Plough announced their new season, along with a pledge to better support actors coming for auditions, including giving actors more information ahead of the audition date and letting them audition for any part. The new season includes “Island Town” by Simon Longman, “Sticks and Stones” by Vinay Patel, and “Pop Music” by Anna Jordan.

The Almeida Theatre announced their new season, leading with a revival of the expressionist classic “Machinal” by Sophie Treadwell directed by Natalie Abrahami, and the world premiere of Ella Hickson’s “The Writer”. Clare Barron’s play “Dance Nation”, about a teenage dance group ambitious for global success, will finish the season in October.

New musical “Miss Nightingale” is to open at the Leicester Square Hippodrome in March after a successful premiere at The Vaults last year. Set in an underground cabaret club during World War II, it follows aspiring singer Maggie and her songwriter George as their budding stage careers falter because of secrets and scandals. Lauren Chinery plays the title role.

Check out Backstage’s London audition listings!